Sabotage by Mae Howard

I will be formulating my response to Cat, Danielle, and Goku through a three-prong apparatus proposal. The first of which positions blood within the context of care/work, access intimacy and BDSM formulations in relation to a disabled body, what I call disabled erotics. My desire here is to examine how disabled queer and trans people relate to sensuality and dependency through bloodshed, specifically BDSM as a form of reflexive agency. Inspired by thinkers such as Audre Lorde, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarasinha, Douglas Crimp, Mia Mingus, Cyree Jarelle Johnson, Constantina Zavitsanos, and Amber Jamilla Musser, Disabled Erotics is located within fissures of unruly, disorderly, queered, messy, overflowing crip- ness. By centering bondage, domination sadism, masochism and kink practices, I am interested in exploring various techniques and methods of navigating pain, building consensual relationships, and care webs that BDSM communities foster. The co-founding pain and delight branch of BDSM, specifically medical fetish and blood shed introduces new ways of relating for disabled people that we may not be otherwise afforded within medical models of care, treatment, observation, and inspection. This alternate model suggests themes of interdependence and recognizing wholeness, two of the principles of disability justice as well by centering the autonomy and collective relationship building through care and dependency that BDSM practices require.

If blood exists within chronopolitical, bio political, and necropolitical apparatuses of measuring disability and more importantly debilitation, then its animation is a form of spectacularism. Here I am using animation in relation to animacies, which Mel Chen defines as “more than the state of being animate, and it is precisely the absence of a consensus around its meaning that leaves it open to both inquiry and resignification.” This animation dictates an encounter that is impotent, rarely tempered, abrasive, rather than digestible. Blood then becomes a ghostly specter that is both tangible in that we can see and witness it (often as a spectacle) and intangible in its incessant reference to pain, death, suffering. The impetus of this work is to highlight the fragility and sturdiness of being and sensing as they relate to the insatiable needs and dependencies that we all possess. The overflowing nature of these conditions commits to change, flexibility, and capaciousness as crip methodologies, relocating tethers back towards our messiest desires and inclinations.

I also want to call upon Mel Chen’s notion of the “toxic spectacular along with the toxic ordinary” wherein toxicity advertises severity and permanence. As witnessed with the decades long ban on gay men donating blood, the haunting of perversity vis a vis gay sex marked as promiscuity and illness (AIDS) simultaneously provokes this essence of severity. With the slogan “promiscuity kills” in relationship to the AIDS epidemic speaks to the intimacies of toxicity that is proposed under the guise of perversity and promiscuity. Examples of this are seen across art historical practices. Gregg Bordowitz’s “Aspects of a Shared Lifestyle,” explores the spectacle based phenoma of illness through newscaster stories with that very headline.

In the 1990s, Ron Athey performed Four Scenes of a Harsh life, wherein he and another performer cut each other repeatedly, blotted the cuts on paper towel, and then suspended the paper towels in the air. The response was an accusation of exposing his audience to AIDS, measured by the fear of intimacy towards toxic blood. Chen argues that “the intimacies—the active proximities and resonant alignments wrought by toxic substances that are brought in line with bodily sites and systems are many; but they extend well beyond the individuated body, particularly when they become a matter of governances, a management of chemicality that works across communities, across populations.”

Finally, I want to notate that blood and the fear of it constitutes biopolitical and necropolitical relations between race and disability as seen within medical negligence in the US (as exemplified by scholars such as Nirmala Erevelles, Stacey Milburn Park, and Alice Wong,) state sanctioned violence (Angela Davis, Liat Ben-Moshe), and ongoing genocide occurring internationally (Jasbir Puar), resulting in simultaneity of bloodshed, a numbness to the very bloodshed, and a complete severing of medical treatment due to risk and lack of adequate resource, resulting in large scale debilitation.


My questions for the presenters are as follows:

  • How does blood constitute notions of citizenship and care? In other words, what does blood as a specter and material matter propose as a provocation of slipperiness within national identity and belonging?
  • How does hauntology in relationship to blood destabilize individual posturing of embodiment?
  • Calling upon Chen, does blood’s fluidity between life and death propose a variation of attunement to not only autonomy but liveliness?
  • How does blood instigate or take away the ability to be a present witness through its measurement within spectacle?